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Business Simulations: Everything you need to know (updated)

When it comes to business simulations, StratX Simulations has decades of experience leading the market forward, striving for innovation, and supporting thousands of learners on their professional journeys. So, from a field that is so full of interesting possibilities, what are the key things you need to know about business simulations before you get started? In this article, we will show you.

What is a business simulation?

A business simulation is an immersive and interactive learning opportunity that brings learners together to get a deeper level of understanding and engagement in their course material, or in their workplace and respective industry. Whereas in a typical learning environment students are taught to listen to and memorize information, in a business simulation, those involved will test and improve their practical or conceptual information and gain experiential knowledge as they play.

Business simulations provide a ‘learning by doing’ experience that replicates real-world market conditions and factors, in some cases specific to the organization that has built or procured. This activity creates a big picture view of the organization in a risk-free environment, where mistakes can be corrected and learned from, rather than punished.

Some business simulations might be for an individual player, but in general, they’re team-based so that co-operation and teamwork skills are developed. This style works towards encouraging conversation, group strategy, and delegation throughout, as well as driving peer-to-peer learning by bouncing off each other’s strengths.

Participants can be expected to:

  • Practice in realistic scenarios
  • Analyze results
  • Discuss strategy and actions
  • Plan ahead
  • Visualize short and long-term impact
  • Launch their plan & receive feedback
  • Embrace the new knowledge they gained through experience

What do you learn in business simulations?

Perhaps we should ask StratX Simulations founder, Jean-Claude Larréché. He developed MarkStrat on the theory that if you give students a way to apply under real market conditions the lessons they learned, they will not only devote more energy but will also learn from their mistakes and successes alike.

Here are some of the big learning opportunities:

  • Critical decision-making skills

    Business simulations offer students and participants the immediate opportunity to learn skills as if they were actually positioned in a company. The significant difference is that in this case if they make any mistakes, there won’t be any costly consequences for their decisions, but rather the opportunity to get feedback and take a hard lesson. This is incredibly effective and is proven to quickly alter attitudes and behaviours. Much like training on the job, some simulation-based activities prepare learners for the real thing without the associated risks.

  • Working under pressure and time constraints

    In the real world, you have to act, and you have to act fast, especially in a high-pressure business environment. Dawdle, and the opportunity might be long gone. Business simulations teach students to operate well under pressure when time is not in abundance, helping them to consider different factors, make reasoned decisions, work with team members who might have good ideas, and to think on their feet. These are massively valuable skills in the business world. As they say, ‘time waits for no man’.

  • Teamwork skills

    When a common goal is presented, even if participants have different roles to play, there’s a level of team engagement that presents itself that is immensely difficult to replicate in other forms of training. Learners are driven to think and make decisions collectively, as well as resolving conflict, considering differences of opinion, and listening to alternative perspectives as they arise. If teams are working together to beat other teams, the introduction of competition creates another level of learning engagement that creates even better results.

How do you win in business simulation games?

The answer is simple: work well together, experiment, and make the best decisions throughout the game. There’s no shortcut, hack, or cheat when it comes to business simulation games, especially because usually you’re pitted against the brains of another team of competitors. There’s an element of chance, of reacting to the situation presented, and keeping cool under pressure so that reasoned decisions can be made. Expecting the unexpected is also a good tactic.

The key things to remember to be a solid team or participant are:

  1. Think of the big picture, understanding how each department and role interacts and functions
  2. In many business simulation games, the winner is the one who generates sustainable profits, so long-term wins should be balanced out with short term gains
  3. Forecast and predict what will happen later in the simulation so that you can be best prepared for different potential scenarios, however…
  4. Be ready to pivot at any moment, you never know how quickly things can change

What are the benefits of simulation games at work and at school?

The benefits of business simulations are countless, and that’s regardless of whether they are used in secondary education, higher education, or as an internal system in businesses to help develop and challenge employees.

5 benefits to learners regardless of age or learning situation:

1) Risk-free learning

In the real world, many people are crippled by indecisiveness, it’s normal. The fear of doing something wrong often outweighs the courage to do something right, and so a vicious cycle emerges. Business simulations, by providing an environment where decisions do not result in real-world risk, teach people to make balanced decisions and feel confident in executing them. This is a classic confidence-building activity.

2) The application of theory

There’s so much that we know, that we don’t really know we know. Until the opportunity to use our knowledge and theory arise, often it lays dormant or unknown inside of us. Providing environments to test this concept is vital to bringing out the best in people and showing them how capable and pragmatic they can be.

3) Realism

As shown in the 70/20/10 model, business simulations are effective because, when done properly, they can replicate realistic market environments. The essence of the process is to begin with a real and complex situation, glean the essentials from it, and recreate it in a simulation. The workflow should be very detailed and the developers should make a good number of adjustments and test them against corporate environments. The simulation is a success when testers are unable to detect whether a situation was created for the game or is from a real business.

4) Timing 

Unlike in a real business environment, time is limited in most simulations. Learners don’t have lots of time to make a decision. This can prove to be beneficial as it forces them to react under pressure, and the decision-making processes become engrained in their minds. It also teaches them how to think on their feet and be able to make quick decisions.

5) The Big Picture

With the broad range of challenges that students face within a simulation, they tend to be better apt at grasping big picture concepts. They get to play an actual job role, and not just read and analyze. They make their own decisions and then see the results of their decisions as well as the response of other players. Read more about professors & participants who have used business simulations in their courses.

There we have it, all the basic information you need to know before you start a business simulation learning experience of your own. If you want to find out more, download our guide, Exploring Business Simulations.